Afterimages

by Maja Kuzmanovic

Stillness. Suspended movement. Balancing on the precipice of motion. The taste of intention preceding action. The aftertaste of movement coming to its end. Cyclic, looped and fed back into never ceasing motion, the never ceasing stillness at the heart of motion. Release of tension. The electrified stillness of a missed heartbeat. The weightlessness of acceleration, free fall and unravelling gravity. Change of direction. Deceleration. A slow approach to what is already here.

Meandering strolls through tropical botanic gardens, journeys by train, trudging uphill, aimlessly wandering across ordinary landscapes. The syncopated rhythm of nearly synchronised footsteps. Distilling stillness from the continuous noise of lived experience. Seeking out things that hide in shadows, flicker in refractions, appear or disappear along familiar streets. Unassuming, abandoned, forgotten things. Unearthing infrastructure holding up reality. Peering under the seamless surface to discover what is unseen and ignored. Technology coiled around itself. Directionless cables and pipelines, interrupted circuits. Captured in a few seconds, perhaps a few minutes. A dense stretch of time, filled with intent. An observance. Punctuated by mechanical clicks of the shutter. The world briefly dims and shivers, only to reappear at an oblique angle or unexpectedly crisp detail. The figurative image becomes a distant abstraction. The stench of street litter dissolves into eerie textures. Decay preserved for posterity. The howling of tires on cobblestones melts into hushed silence. A glitch is glorified, a stain noticed, a crack revealed. Spectral glimpses of the magical in the mundane. Gritty and grainy, blurry and vague, subdued but no less present. Just stop and look.

Timelessness. The vanishing moment, the perpetual moment. Seeing things not as things, but as instances of materials unstitched from time. Fragments of memories, emotions, lives and landscapes stretched over a thin surface of reality. The skin, the skein. The string of moments in fields of infinities. Nostalgia destroyed by collapsing time, by expanding time, by enveloping moments with themselves. Unwrap, unravel, unfold. Each starting point is a point of departure. Stillness, filled with moving light.

Reframed matter. Echoes of a material present. Irreal, speculative, habitually otherworldly. Scale invariant and open for interpretation. The fuzzy greyscale formation could be a distant panorama or a microscopic universe. A thunderstorm composed mostly of silence. Untitled, matter remains pliant and fluid. It lends itself to be transmuted into light, and back into matter again. Refocused, refracted, frozen in time yet seen anew. People might exist, but only as glimmers and shadows. Ghostly afterimages of themselves. They might have just left, or may be about to appear. They remain unknown, anonymous. Trailing a delicate veil of shared stories and memories. Textured memories. Quiet, barely perceptible in their stillness, they exist as liminal distortions of the present. Sheer, queer, quivering textures of entangled lives.

Silence. The stillness at the centre of the cyclone. Repose. Roaring silence in those moments when noise ceases to exist. When pain ebbs away. When warmth spreads through frozen limbs. The billowing stillness between breaths. Silences in between, underneath and beyond. Unheard, yet always there. In the earth. In the rain. In the stars, the sun, the moon.

Juxtapositions of the faraway and the everyday. Underwater gardens, undulatus asperatus, unexpected landscapes. Glacial, sedimented, reflected. Layers of translucent ice. Or was it shattered glass? Or graffiti, scratched in the peeling plaster of a decomposing temple? Possibly all of the above. Patterns repeating. Tangles, shadows, concrete rot, reflections, typography, broken televisions, rocks, leaves, yellow lines, blur. Stillness conjured out of the chaotic urban sprawl moving at 3×10⁸ metres per second. Harsh violence of time exposed in the gentle dripping of water on rocks. The eclipse dances across the lens. Reverberating.

Patience. Still. Still here. Still, not quite there. The scratched surface, the cracked pavement, the bent branch, overlooked. The remaining still while the world moves on.

Quiet instances amidst the whirlwind of life. Slow mornings and long winter evenings, carved out times for recovery, continuous cadence of compression, decompression and recompression. A piece of paper held up to the light. Documented. The screen keeps glowing. Pixel-shuffling almost audible. Resizing, scanning, cropping, colour balancing. Images filling hard-drives and piled on the floor. Almost filmic sequences, interspersed with random tangents. Fading in and out. Digital chimeras in between, on the edges and in transitions. Luminous entities hiding in things discoloured and shrivelled. Pale light echoes within textured darkness. Stillness emerges in motion blur. The sharp contrast of radiant weathering, feast and famine, celebration and contemplation. Seasonal cycles pierced by non-linear movement. Oscillating.

Pause. Observe… the ‘still…’ of paths not followed, the ‘still…’ of possibility, the ‘still…’ of doubt and hesitation. The ‘still…’ of waiting for the next revolution, perfectly timed.

Dwelling on botany at dawn and dusk, revelling in the vulnerability of inception and subsiding. Plants growing from cracks in the pavement and overgrown urban decay. Liminal life, sprouting into existence or fading into nothingness. Gnarly roots and entangled vines, fragile shoots. Vegetal resilience in extreme temperatures. Multiple shades of green washed away by twilight. In praise of shadows.

Focus. The stillness of a predator waiting to strike. Anticipation. A year, from one new moon to the next. A split second, a crack and a breath…

Click.

“Afterimages” is Maja Kuzmanovic’s epilogue to “Stillness” a forthcoming book of photographs by Nik Gaffney published by MER Paper Kunsthalle and FoAM.